Twitter’s sports world blazed with anger again on Wednesday. Instead of the NFL’s controversial Seahawks win, it was in the WNBA’s corner as Phoenix nabbed the No. 1 pick in the league’s draft lottery aired on ESPN.
The Mercruy (7-27) had a 27.6 percent chance to win the coveted top pick. Coach Corey Gaines beamed like a Cheshire Cat when the ping-pong balls — previously conducted — led to WNBA president Laurel Richie unveiling Phoenix as the winner.
“I have at least 40 texts and I haven’t gotten a chance to look at all of them, but when I was walking out the door, Diana (Taurasi) hit me with a ‘Wow’,” Gaines told reporters in Bristol, Conn.
Washington (5-29) was most-likely to win the draft lottery (44.2 percent). And the dejected look on co-owner Shelia Johnson’s face said it all when the Mystics received the fourth and final lottery selection.
Angry tweets hit my timeline because most assumed the Mercury “tanked” this season in order to select 6-foot-8 center Brittany Griner, the assumed top pick to any team holding the position. She helped Baylor go undefeated in winning the school’s second NCAA championship last spring with her defensive capabilities. She was a household name before picking a college when a video of her dunking went viral.
Tanking is a harsh belief, though. True, Taurasi only played in eight games this season. And it looks shady that she wasn’t able to play prior to the Olympics, but started in the London Games and then was hurt, again. But who knows how a player truly feels?
“You want to see ’em,” Taurasi offered me, opening her mouth wide, when I questioned her wisdom-teeth removal story prior to Phoenix beating Seattle 75-68 in August. I declined. She was 3-for-13 from the field for 13 points in the Mercury win.
What most irked (and celebratory) fans are forgetting is there’s still a lot of basketball to be played. The WNBA hasn’t even crowded a 2012 champion. And heaven forbid any of the trio of stars hyped since last year — Griner, Elena Delle Donne, or Skylar Diggins — gets injured during the college season. That could change the outlook of the draft as well as possible trades.
For now, Phoenix picks first and Washington is without a coach and a guaranteed star player to mask all the problems over the years. Oh, and Seattle (16-18) picks sixth in the first-round, in case you’re wondering.
Here’s the complete draft order, remaining teams based on order of finish this season:
1. Phoenix Mercury (7-27)
2. Chicago Sky (14-20)
3. Tulsa Shock (9-25)
4. Washington Mystics (5-29)
5. New York Liberty (15-19)
6. Seattle Storm (16-18)
7. Atlanta Dream (19-15)
8. San Antonio Silver Stars (21-13)
9. Indiana Fever (22-12)
10. Los Angeles Sparks (24-10)
11. Connecticut Sun (25-9)
12. Minnesota Lynx (27-7)